After a week of controversy around crunch practices at Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar, the company has lifted restrictions and allowed employees to speak out. Many of the comments on social have struck a tone around ‘it’s fine’ to ‘it’s not that bad,’ though a far more negative report has come out today. Either way, it sounds like Rockstar plans some changes in the wake of this conversation.
An anonymous QA tester at the company’s Lincoln studio says “overtime is NOT optional, it is expected of us,” and that any missed overtime must be made up on another day. “This usually means that if you want a full weekend off that you will have to work a double weekend to make up for it.”
This tester says work weeks have typically been around 60 hours, but have on at least one occasion gone as high as 80. Most of that overtime has been paid, but hourly employees apparently aren’t paid through lunch and dinner breaks – despite working through them. That means each overtime day has roughly an hour-and-a-half of uncompensated labour.
But the Reddit post notes “overtime has changed for us now as of next week.” The poster claims a meeting took place earlier today “where it was announced that all overtime going forward will be entirely optional,” meaning that while overtime is till an option for extra pay (and will “make yourself look better for progression”) now “there is no longer a rule making us do it.”
Reddit mods have verified this poster, and a new report from Kotaku published shortly afterward cites several anonymous sources in saying that the studio would switch from mandatory to voluntary overtime. Head of publishing Jenn Kolbe says that it’s purely a difference in how overtime is framed at the company.
“Through the conversations we’ve been having it is clear to us that the requested scheduled overtime felt like an obligation to some, if not many, of the team,” Kolbe says. “We therefore spoke to them to make sure it is clear that the OT is not mandatory.” However, the system still has overtime shifts directly requested by studio bosses.
These reports characterize Rockstar Lincoln as one of the worst segments in the company when it comes to crunch, but pressure appears to be lifting across the company’s worldwide studios. A dev based at Rockstar North similarly says on Twitter that “HR called me in to let me know that Rockstar had announced to their QA teams that overtime was no longer mandatory,” as part of a lengthy thread that’s generally positive about employment there.
Rockstar dev crunch has been a hot topic since co-founder Dan Houser mentioned 100-hour weeks at times for the upper-level bits of the writing team. The ensuing conversation has a prompted surprising number of responses from the notoriously tight-lipped company – hopefully meaning that studio bosses are taking the pushback seriously.